Where is the "epiphany" in James Joyce's "Araby"?

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An epiphany refers to a sudden revelation or insight, a moment of vision. In James Joyce’s “Araby ,” however, the lovestruck narrator experiences a disappointment so intense and overwhelming that it amounts to the death of a vision; the revelation that what he thought he saw was merely...

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An epiphany refers to a sudden revelation or insight, a moment of vision. In James Joyce’s “Araby,” however, the lovestruck narrator experiences a disappointment so intense and overwhelming that it amounts to the death of a vision; the revelation that what he thought he saw was merely a figment of his imagination.

This comes right at the end of the story, in the final sentence that forms a paragraph by itself:

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.

The boy has become infatuated with a girl he calls Mangan’s sister. He thinks of her in intensely romantic terms, pressing his palms together is if in prayer and murmuring “O love! O love!” The first time Mangan’s sister speaks to him, she asks if he is going to a bazaar called Araby. She cannot go there herself, and he promises to bring her back something if he goes. From that point, Mangan’s sister and Araby are inextricably connected in his mind and his determination to bring back a worthy gift takes on the quality of a sacred quest.

When, after some difficulty and uncertainty, the boy finally reaches the bazaar, most of the stalls are closed and he finds nothing to buy. It is terribly dismal and disappointing, nothing like the oasis of beauty and luxury he had imagined. The epiphany at the end of the story seems to include not only the disappointment of Araby, but the vanity of love itself, since the two are mixed together in his mind, despite that fact that Mangan’s sister herself plays no direct part in his disillusion.

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The boy in “Araby” has a crush on the sister of his friend, Mangan. He spends a lot of time admiring her from afar. He frequently follows her but does not have the nerve to speak to her. When he finally does speak to her, she is upset that she can’t go to the bazaar. So, he promises to buy her a gift, innocently believing that she will like him if he does so.

He goes through a lot just to get to the bazaar, but he arrives so late that most of the stalls are closed. However, he does not have much of a selection of gifts at this late hour, so he becomes frustrated. His epiphany comes as he looks around at the dark stalls. He realizes that “my stay was useless” and there’s no point in hoping to get Mangan’s sister’s attention—the bazaar is closing so he will not be able to purchase a present. He really does not have a chance with the girl; in fact, at this point, he recognizes that he never had a chance. This realization is a painful awakening for the boy. “I saw myself as a creature driven by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.”

The young man matures by the end of the story and learns about the realities of life.

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James Joyce's "Araby" concludes with its unnamed protagonist realizing that his innocent love for Mangan's sister is as false and frail as the bazaar which surrounds him:

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.

The description that the boy gives of himself as "a creature" is particularly powerful, as he is reducing himself to merely animalistic qualities; his love is not grand or romantic but mere "vanity" born of a desire for transformation.

Of course, although the narrator does not achieve the transformation that he initially hopes for (that is, entering into a mature relationship), his epiphany presumably changes him nonetheless. Whether or not this change is positive is never revealed, all we are given is that which I have quoted above.

Still, although the final sentence of the story appears pessimistic, this is not necessarily the case. Much of Dubliners deals with characters who undergo difficult experiences and many of them come out on the other side better for it. While this is not necessarily true for our protagonist in "Araby," it would be a mistake to think that his epiphany is definitely a negative experience.

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The epiphany of "Araby" comes at the conclusion of the story.  As the boy "lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless," he realizes that his idealization of Mangan's sister has been a senseless imagining to take him away from the "brown imperturbable faces" of his life"

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.

The boy derides himself for having imagined the girl in religious and romantic ways: As he watches the girl through a window, he presses his hand together until they tremble, "murmuring" as in prayer, "O love! O love! many times" as though reciting the Hail Mary repeatedly on the rosary.  Later, he runs through the crowd with her name on his lips as he "bore [his] chalice safely through a throng of foes."  Mangan's sister is like the Holy Grail to him in an Arthurian legend.

In contrast to his idealization of love, the bazaar is anything but exotic.  Realizing the pettiness of the place, the boy "allowed the two pennies to fall against the sixpence in [his]pocket."  Like the pennies, the bazaar is cheap and lowly against the idealism of his infatuation.  The boy' s epiphany comes as the symbols of purity and perfection that the boy has imagined in Mangan's sister converge with reality; he is no longer a child and his eyes sting with his anguished and angry initiation into adulthood and its realities.

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